Family tells painful story of the day the Zoo train derailed


Posted on March 25, 2010 at 5:16 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 25 at 6:28 PM

The Zoo train was full of passengers when it derailed, and WHAS11 News talked to one family that remembers that moment.

A family of four including a 1-year-old and 2-month-old child was all riding the passenger train.

Since the crash, their father has undergone several surgeries.

Up until now, no one has spoken publicly about what it was like to be on the train the day that it derailed at the Louisville Zoo. 

Amanda Lankford was with her husband that day, her 2-month-old son and 1-year-old daughter and as a family it was going to be their first train ride together.

"I’m expecting a slow carefree relaxing trip around the Zoo," said Amanda Lankford as she told her story for the first time.

Its the train ride that she says changed her family's life.

"It was very horrific.  I’ve had flashbacks numerous times to that day," she said.

A day at the Louisville Zoo with her family was when as they we're getting ready to leave they stopped at the train.

The Lankfords were seated together in a middle car. Amanda held her two children, her husband sat in front.

The train she says began to pick up speed.

"We take this turn and it starts to lean and I can see.  I grab my son and hold him really tight and I can see my daughter getting away from me as we are falling over."

Michaela's face, she remembers, is being dragged through gravel along the rails while she's clutching her 2-month-old son Corbin.

"The next thing I know we're on the ground," Lankford explained, “She's covered in blood, I’m covered in blood, she has a hole in the side of her face.  She's screaming mommy, mommy, mommy and there is nothing I can do.”

Amanda tells us she hears her husband screaming and that he's pinned under the car with his leg crushed.

In court documents there are similar accounts of how the train seemed to be moving too fast and of other injuries.

"There are people screaming, chaos, just it didn’t just topple over oops… it fell.  This was a major major incident."

The family is separated with her children taken to the intensive care unit at Kosair Children's Hospital. 

Corbin was suffering with a skull fracture and Michaela had blood pooling on her brain.  Several surgeries would follow.

At University Hospital, doctors are telling Amanda that her husband nearly lost his leg.  He's had four surgeries.

To this day Amanda cannot account for how she lifted the train off of her husband and saved her children.

"I have no explanation for how I was able to hold on to them except that god was there to protect us," she said.

If the train returns to the Louisville Zoo, Amanda's hope is that it will be safe and she hopes that no family will go through what she's been through her husband and her two children in the last year.

Read the entire report from the AG Department here.